— by Neuromancer
In the middle of my life’s journey, I recount for you the 2007 MIT Mystery Hunt (www.mit.edu/~puzzle), one of the largest annual puzzle events in the country. Each year, many talented teams descend on Boston to solve a 60-hour marathon of mind-numbing puzzles and find a coin hidden somewhere on the MIT campus. For those Krewe who have never visited MIT, it is a labyrinth of interconnected buildings, hallways, basements and sub-basements, which allow one to traverse almost the entire campus without setting a foot outside — a distinct advantage during January in Boston.
The experience was heightened this year by the knowledge that some of our teammates were going to be interviewed for the radio program This American Life. (The show aired Feb. 16 and is archived on the website www.thislife.org.)
All around, this was a most interesting year! Having helped solve or construct this mega-extravaganza for the past 17 years, I must say, never has the Hunt been so funny. The Evil Midnight Bombers What Bomb at Midnight, captained by Spelvin and including many Krewe, produced really divine or infernal results (your choice)! Spelvin introduced the Hunt in Lobby 7 of MIT as an infomercial persona, Michael Fauntleroy, hawking a way to win the Hunt in only five (!) puzzles by taking his course on being Really, Really Awesome. Little did we know that in signing on we were inadvertently giving our souls to M. F. Stopheles as the real theme of the Hunt was revealed to be . . . Evil!
Each round of the Hunt, exhorting us to learn Really, Really Evil skills, was crowned by a video highlighting the comedic talents of Spelvin, Foggy, Cazique, Slik, Wombat, and many others. I do hope these will be made available on the Web or otherwise — “How to Succeed at Law and Government by Being Really, Really Evil” was hilarious! Along the way we (team Palindrome, this year going by the moniker Dr. Awkward and led by Fuldu) had to solve a hundred or so extremely well-crafted puzzles of great variety. There were twists on traditional puzzle types as well as some original work using, among other things, M&M’s, Shakespearean insults, a jigsaw maze, and golf and flight simulators.
To add to the fun, we had to prove our evilness by attending various event puzzles based on the seven deadly sins. Imagine dragging yourself to a “Sloth” event at four in the morning, where you are forced to sit quietly in a warm room, with a softly playing lullaby, and listen for a word whispered one letter at a time over 10 or 15 minutes (zzzzzz — I have actually used the track to put my 11- month-old daughter to sleep). Or attending a “Pride” fashion show where you have to realize you’re actually playing a game of Mastermind based on the outfit color combinations! The inventiveness constructors show always amazes me.
One of my favorite things during any Hunt is the opportunity to run around the mazelike campus. Usually, a few of the puzzles require figuring out a path based on vague hints at obscure architecture or clever descriptions of landmarks. I must compliment the Bombers on putting their main run-around in the middle of the Hunt, allowing a maximum of enjoyment for the teams. I actually solved this one after the Hunt was finished and was very satisfied. Once we received our certificates of completion for our evil courses, everything went to Hell — including us. Through a tortuous convolution of several metapuzzle answers and the dismantling of said certificates, we managed to construct a “mystical snowball” which eventually had to pass a customs inspection from Hell. This earned team Palindrome the distinct pleasure of nailing the devil with a snowball in Hell. Dante would think we’re Really, Really Divine.